Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Different day, same title: more of your Conservative MPs in action

Item 1: A motion initiated by the Conservatives at the Standing Committee on Heritage this past Wednesday that was appropriately defeated. Here's the motion:
Dean Del Mastro moved, — That the Committee condemns extremists, financed by the Bloc, for their threats of violence against Quebecers; that the Committee condemns the racism and violence promoted by Pierre Falardeau, Patrick Bourgeois, and other extremists, whom the Bloc has financed; that the House of Commons find a way to ban extremist groups like these, which advocate violence and racism, from receiving funds from the Parliament of Canada.

Debate arose thereon.

After debate, the question was put on the motion and it was negatived, by a show of hands: YEAS: 5; NAYS: 6.
Conservative support has plunged in Quebec, according to a new poll that suggests the party would lose some of its 10 seats in the province if an election were held today and would again be unable to form a majority government.
Only 10 per cent of Quebeckers would vote for the Conservative Party today, according to a poll conducted by The Strategic Counsel for The Globe and Mail/CTV News. That's down from 17 per cent in last month's poll and 22 per cent in the October election.
Is there a connection? Could very well be. The demonization strategy against the Bloc - and its voters - that commenced with the idea of the coalition continues in earnest, with such motions as the Del Mastro one above. And this one deserves some attention.

The motion was brought initially by Pierre Poilievre at a previous meeting. This motion appears to have been a means for them to go on record over the cancellation of the reenactment of the Plains of Abraham battle. And more importantly, for Conservatives to exploit the perception that it was cancelled due to separatist threats. Falardeau and Bourgeois, the two individuals singled out in Del Mastro's motion did figure in the recent controversy over that event. Neither Falardeau nor Bourgeois did themselves any favours by remarks they made during the course of that debate which hinted at violence. Falardeau is a Quebec filmmaker and Bourgeois is the publisher of "Le Québécois" and head of the RRQ ("Réseau de résistance du Québécois"). The PQ has recently distanced itself from those individuals, albeit belatedly, and that was an entirely appropriate reaction. But there is also now a sense in Quebec that the decision to cancel the reenactment came as a result of broad opposition to it, well beyond the instigations of Falardeau and Bourgeois:

While original news reports blamed threats from separatist groups for the cancellation, it has since become clear that there was broader public ambivalence about the wisdom of the idea in the first place.

Some of the earliest opposition, in fact, came from historians themselves. Three of Quebec's most prominent francophone historians -- Jacques Lacoursiere, Denis Vaugeois and Guy Vandeboncoeur -- complained directly to the commission about a promotional brochure that was finally the subject of a public recall on Jan. 26.

Rather than portray the event as an objective retrospective, the marketing brochure gave the impression that a jovial celebration was being planned. Various pictures and captions suggested that a lighthearted musical comedy was in the works.

"The negative first impressions created by this brochure created a backlash that organizers couldn't overcome," Mr. Lacoursiere said.(emphasis added)

See this, this and this ("Serious concerns are being raised, however, about the wisdom of re-staging this bloody and pivotal event in Canada's history, and not just by Quebec nationalists.") for further evidence on this point.

This motion from Del Mastro and the Conservatives, however, was not responsive to the issues raised by the cancellation. The Conservatives didn't propose, for example, any review of the commission's decision making in setting up this event or its oversight of it. The Conservative motion moved the government's involvement immediately into having the Heritage Committee officially labelling people extremists and launching funding bans. When it's unclear that there was even any request before the committee for funds from the individuals Del Mastro's motion singled out or any evidence before the committee substantiating the motion. His motion sounds arbitrary and sweeping in its vague attempt to extend the extremist label to other unnamed groups and individuals. It was also riddled with freedom of expression issues. Conservatives may be comfortable labelling individuals as "extremists," but are we comfortable having Conservatives tell us who is an extremist and who isn't? What is their definition of an extremist anyway?

This committee is supposed to be spending its time doing a "Strategic Review of Arts and Culture Program Expenditures" in the wake of the controversy we just went through in the fall after the Conservative arts cuts occurred. Which, as noted in this report Monday, they have apparently now gotten back to the work of doing after last week's Conservative distraction.

Yet another example of misguided Conservative priorities, spending their time inflaming issues rather than maturely governing...and veering carelessly into oppressive territory.